South Carolina’s girls’s basketball dynasty below Daybreak Staley is simply getting began


CLEVELAND — At first of the 2024 NCAA girls’s nationwide championship sport on Sunday afternoon, the Iowa Hawkeyes and celebrity Caitlin Clark had been in-sync and on fireplace.

The Iowa followers had been loud and on their ft amongst a totally bought out Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. A complete of 18,300 folks had been in attendance to catch the ultimate girls’s faculty basketball sport to shut out a historic season of viewership. Iowa went on a 10-0 run within the first jiffy of the sport and Clark scored 18 to complete the primary quarter. For a second, one might have thought that perhaps this was going to be a storybook ending for Clark and her squad. And simply perhaps South Carolina wouldn’t grow to be the eleventh staff in DI girls’s basketball historical past to finish an ideal season.

However as coaches talked about this season and reiterated once more through the Closing 4 weekend— South Carolina is a stacked and proficient pressure. With a 6’7 middle, quick guards, forwards with lengthy arms and a powerful defensive unit, the Gamecocks as soon as once more proved that their spectacular roster and deep bench was constructed for championship success.

Wanting again at this sport and even South Carolina’s whole season, their depth and dominance was apparent. In Sunday’s sport, the Gamecocks defeated Iowa 87-75, with a complete of 37 factors coming from their bench.

“Now we have been taking part in like this all season,” mentioned sophomore Ashlyn Watkins in regards to the staff’s bench play.

“[It’s] not solely their depth, their top,” Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder mentioned. “I’m not simply speaking about their facilities. They’re actually fairly massive at each place, which makes it onerous. They may recuperate rather well after we had three-pointers.”

South Carolina freshman Tessa Johnson, who posted a season-high 19 factors, had LeBron James mentioning her title on Twitter (X) and made the all-tournament staff. Fellow freshman teammate MiLaysia Fulwiley had 9 factors, 4 rebounds and 4 assists. To assume how way more faculty basketball these two have at South Carolina proves that the Gamecocks might nonetheless keep dominant.

Staley now has three nationwide championship rings at South Carolina in 2017, 2022, and 2024. What’s scary is it looks like she’s simply getting began.

NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament - National Championship

Picture by Gregory Shamus/Getty Photos

“Tessa was due for a breakout sport,” mentioned senior Te-Hina Paopao. “What to do higher than on a nationwide stage? She’s trusted her course of right here. She’s trusted her journey. And for her to do this on such a giant stage, I’m so pleased with her. Her confidence has grown a lot.”

Regardless of Clark main her staff with 30 factors, followers witnessed her ultimate collegiate sport as she heads on to her skilled profession, leaving her mark and a legacy in girls’s faculty basketball world. South Carolina guard Raven Johnson, who Clark memorably waved off in final yr’s semifinal sport, needed to guard Clark after her big first quarter.

“I used to be prepared for the second. And I take protection very onerous, like I take it to coronary heart,” Raven Johnson mentioned. “I studied her strikes, and I used to be prepared. I had confidence this yr. I used to be telling myself final yr’s not going to occur once more.”

Assuming no gamers switch, South Carolina will solely lose senior middle Kamilla Cordoso, who’s projected to be a primary spherical WNBA draft choose. Cordoso completed Sunday’s sport with 15 factors and 17 rebounds and proved to be a tricky check for Iowa.

“Cardoso had 17 rebounds. They’ve 51 as a staff. Now we have 29. Exhausting to win a basketball sport like that,” Clark mentioned. “You’ve principally received to shoot excellent at that time.”

Whereas chatting with the media after the sport, Staley spoke about how as a result of depth of her staff a lot of her gamers most likely needed extra taking part in time all through the season, however she credited how all of them got here in and stepped up at completely different factors.

“To have a roster that goes 9, 10 deep is — it’s a privilege, it truly is. Nevertheless it must be developed slowly and the fitting method,” Staley mentioned. “Like, there’s a variety of belief that must be constructed as a result of there’s some video games that a few of them received’t play a complete lot, particularly the folks which can be coming off the bench.”

As this girls’s faculty basketball season ends with South Carolina because the champions, it’s simple to think about that with a really comparable roster they might be again right here, hoisting the trophy and slicing down the nets in Tampa.

“I’m actually taking this second in but when I’m serious about the long run, I hope we develop as a program and that we develop as a staff.” Tessa Johnson mentioned.